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After Hudson River collision, new safety recs for shared waterways

Last year's collision between a ferry and kayakers on the Hudson River could lead to stronger safety requirements for recreational boaters. At least, that's the hope of the National Transportation Safety Board, which has issued some new recommendations aimed at making shared waterways safer.

The recent safety recommendation report begins with a description of the type of event the NTSB wants to help prevent: Last August, a New York Waterways ferry backed into a group of kayakers on the Hudson River, injuring three of them. The ferry captain said he didn't see the kayakers in time to avoid them, in part because of the glaring sun.

Especially in narrow, busy waterways, following the "rules of the road" for navigation, along with other safety procedures, is critical for boating safety. However, since recreational boaters aren't subject to the same safety requirements as commercial seamen are, the people who are most likely to be injured in a boating collision - those in the smaller craft - are often not as prepared.

Along with some other recommendations, the NTSB suggests the U.S. Coast Guard ask Congress to enact national laws requiring recreational boaters to take safety classes before hitting the water. 

The NTSB cites a Coast Guard estimate that in 2015, only 28 percent of people operating recreational motor boats had to take a safety course or test required by their state or city. It's likely that number is even lower for boaters in non-motorized vessels like kayaks and canoes.

In 2015, more than 4,000 recreational boating accidents were reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. Included in this number are accidents involving commercial and recreational boats, which led to six deaths and 76 injuries.

If you're planning on heading out on a kayak, sailboat or yacht this summer, it's a good idea to take a safety course or brush up on your knowledge. Whether the Coast Guard and Congress follow the NTSB's recommendations to require safety courses for recreational boaters or not, there's plenty that individual boaters can do to protect themselves and others.

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